Toothache Plant
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Toothache Plant
aturalized Photo: Thingnam Girija
Common name: Toothache Plant, Para cress • Adi: Marsang • Hindi: Akarkar, Pipulka • Manipuri: ꯂꯥꯂꯨꯀꯣꯛ Lalu-kok • Marathi: Pipulka, Akarkara • Kannada: Hemmugalu • Assamese: Pirazha • Tangkhul: Ansa han • Mizo: An'sa-pui
Botanical name: Acmella oleracea    Family: Asteraceae (Sunflower family)
Synonyms: Spilanthes acmella var. oleracea, Spilanthes fusca

Toothache Plant or "Paracress" is a flowering herb. Its leaves and flower heads contain an analgesic agent that may be used to numb toothaches. It is grown as an ornamental (and occasionally as a medicinal) in various parts of the world. The stems are prostrate or erect, often reddish, hairless. Leaves are broadly ovate to triangular, 5-11 cm long, 4-8 cm wide, margins toothed, tip sharp. Flower-heads arise singly, elongated-conical, containing primarily disc florets, 1-2.4 cm long, 1.1-1.7 cm in diameter. Disc florets are many, yellow to orange, 2.7-3.3 mm long. Achenes are black, 2-2.5 mm long. Eating Toothache Plant is a memorable experience. The leaf has a smell similar to any green leafy vegetable. The taste, however, is somewhat reminiscent of Echinacea, but lacking the bitter and sometimes nauseating element of that medicinal. First, a strong, spicy warmth spreads outward across one's tongue, turning into a prickling sensation. With this the salivary glands leap into action, pumping out quantities of saliva. As the prickling spreads, it mellows into an acidic (slightly metallic) sharpness accompanied by tingling, and then numbness. The numbness fades after a time (two to twenty minutes, depending on the person and amount eaten), and the pungent aftertaste may linger for an hour or more.
Medicinal uses: The leaves and flower heads contain analgesic, antifungal, anthelminthic, and antibacterial agents, but some of the compounds are destroyed by desiccation or freezing.

Identification credit: Akramul Hoque, Shaista Ahmad Photographed in cultivation in Delhi & Himachal Pradesh.

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